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Director's Dispatch: The Cost of Providing a High-Quality International Education

The International School of Dakar is a non-profit, private, independent school governed by nine ISD parents. Ninety-nine percent of the school funds come from fees paid by our parents. Being a non-profit school means that all the funds received by the school are invested in the school program plus having adequate reserve funds to deal with unexpected events that could affect school enrollment. The largest cost of a school is the professional staff.

The quality of a school is dependent upon the quality of the teachers. To have a great school you need to have a veteran teaching faculty with experience in the programs offered by the school. To keep costs low, the school attempts to recruit qualified teachers in Dakar, but the supply of veteran English speaking teachers with experience with international curriculum is low, as a result the school has to recruit a significant amount of our teachers to come to Dakar. Eighty -five percent of the teachers next year will be overseas-hires with the additional costs normally associated with sponsored teachers including housing. Experienced teachers have opportunities to work all around the world and competition is tough for the most talented. Our salary is very competitive within Africa and higher than many South American schools, but is lower than teachers can make in most of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. ISD is an outstanding school due to our high quality teachers, 80% have graduate degrees and over 70% have more than ten years of teaching experience.

Another factor in the cost of ISD is the low staff to student ratio. Our school has lower class sizes than many schools in Dakar and around the world. In addition, we offer a robust program of co-curricular classes including art, drama, music, and physical education that some schools do not. Also, our elementary classrooms have teaching assistants to provide additional instruction and care for our younger students.

Operating Budget

The school develops two different budgets to fund the school. The Operating Budget covers the following expenses.

  • Salaries and Benefits: teacher, administrator and staff salaries and benefits

  • Educational Programs and Materials: educational materials, after school activities, sports, school trips like Week Without Walls

  • Administrative: Campus maintenance and upkeep, electricity, insurance, and recruiting new teachers

The chart below shows what percentage of the budget is spent for each area.

2019-2020 Operating Budget

Capital Budget

The Capital Budget provides funding for on-going Capital projects and items as well as long term construction projects. The Capital Budget is funded in two ways. Students in their first year at ISD pay a Capital Fee of $5,500. Returning students pay a Capital Fee of $1,000. The new student Capital Fee is designated to support new construction including the Performing Arts Center and athletic complex. The returning student fee funds capital projects that benefit all students. Next year, this fee will fund laptop computers, new textbooks, campus repairs, musical instruments, and painting of the school buildings.

The chart below shows what percentage of the budget is spent for each area.

2019-2020 Capital Budget

The Board decided to pay for the PAC and the new gym with a combination of cash from the Capital Reserve and Capital Fees as well as loans. The loan will allow future ISD families to contribute to the cost of the facilities. Also, by borrowing a portion of the construction cost, we will be able to construct both buildings in the next three to four years without having to raise the Capital Fee. The loan will be repaid out of the annual Capital Budget over the next five years.

The new construction budgeted for next year is the pool expansion project.

The Board and Administration realizes that many of our parents pay all or part of the school fees themselves. Our goal is to provide the best educational experience at the lowest fees possible. The Administration works hard to be as efficient as possible to maintain costs and use internal controls to make sure the funds are used at they are intended. The tuition of ISD is higher than the other schools in Dakar due to the cost of having a significant number of overseas-hire teachers combined with the low staff student ratio needed to provide a range of courses and services to our students. Based on the recent parent surveys, an overwhelming majority of our parents find the quality of our program is worth the cost.

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